The Sam Houston State Bearkats kicked off the football season Saturday night against the Oklahoma Panhandle State University Aggies.
The Bearkats started the game with the football, but could not get anything cooking. Neither could OPSU on their first drive, as both offenses started slow and went three-and-out. The Bearkat special teams came up big when junior tight end Ragan Henderson almost blocked the OPSU punt, which forced a 12-yard shanked punt. This play gave the Kats an even better field position, with the ball starting on the OPSU 30.
SHSU capitalized on the big special teams play. The team finally got on the board when junior quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe tossed a 23-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Yedidiah Louis, jumpstarting their offense and putting the Kats up 7-0.
After the first score, Briscoe and the Bearkat offense started feeling it. The team on its very next possession capped off another scoring drive, this one was a 32-yard touchdown pass from Briscoe to senior tight end Deon Hutchinson to put the Bearkats up 14-0.
The quick fourteen unanswered points by the Bearkats ended abruptly though as junior Devyn Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for an Aggie touchdown, closing the gap to 14-7.
The next drive by the Bearkats was a five play, 76-yard beauty, which was capped off by a 15-yard rushing touchdown by junior running back Corey Avery. The score put the Bearkats up 21-7 with just under a minute left in the first quarter. OPSU struck right back with a 69-yard passing touchdown to put the Aggies within seven once again, 21-14.
Good run defense by the Aggies inside their 10-yard line forced the Bearkats to settle for a 23 yard field goal, which was converted by sophomore Tre Honshtein, putting the Bearkats up 24-14 with 13 minutes to play in the half.
A quick touchdown pass from Briscoe to Avery, and a touchdown by sophomore running back Javin Webb, put the Bearkats up 38-14 going into the half.
The Aggies got the ball to start the second half, but similar to the start of the game, they could not get anything going.
The Bearkats on the other hand, picked up right where they left off.
Briscoe showed off his legs in the third quarter when he dove into the end zone for an 8-yard score. The superman-like touchdown put the Kats up 45-14 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. Head coach K.C. Keeler would then bring in freshman quarterback Caleb Griffin, ending Briscoe’s star-studded night.
He finished the game with a 66 percent completion rate, 338 yards and four total touchdowns.
“Jeremiah had a solid day.” Keeler said, “Didn’t throw the ball as well as he can, but he made great decisions. Exactly what we need to run this offense.”
Briscoe’s favorite target on the night was sophomore wide receiver Grant Finney who caught seven balls for 67 yards.
“Grant is somebody that I have a tremendous amount of confidence in,” Briscoe said. “We’ve been together last year and this year, and anytime that he’s one on one, we’re gonna take advantage of it.”
SHSU would go on to win the ballgame by a final score of 59-21, starting their season 1-0.
“You can’t simulate that first game,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “You always go into that first game worried about what was going to happen.”
Junior defensive lineman P.J. Hall and the Bearkat defense kept the Aggies’ high-powered offense in check all game, only allowing 366 total yards and 4.8 yards per play.
“Their offensive skill is their strength,” Keeler said, “I think they realized early on they were going to struggle to run against us. If people are going beat us, we are going to make them work for it.”
The Bearkats will have the week off before hitting the road to face the Lamar Cardinals on Sept. 17.